This extension adds support for querying ray tracing group handles on library creation time rather than waiting for pipeline linking. This improves composability for applications that mix and match libraries or incrementally create shader groups.

Compatibility with DXR 1.1 is also improved. In that API, it is possible to query handles on COLLECTION creation time, and handles are guaranteed to remain bitwise identical when linked into other pipelines. AddToStateObject() is another API which incrementally adds shader groups to a ray tracing pipeline and group handles are required to remain bitwise identical in that scenario as well.

1. Problem Statement

When using pipeline libraries with ray tracing, the intent is that pipeline libraries allow for a flexible model where pipeline libraries are compiled in isolation, and later, pipelines can be linked rapidly on-demand. Based on the relevant materials that are active in a scene, a ray tracing pipeline can be linked that suits that scene.

However, relinking a pipeline in the current API means that all group handles are invalidated, and group handles must be required and uploaded to the device for every pipeline. This is not desirable.

2. Solution Space

There are not many options for how to implement this feature. The only way to expose this feature is to allow group handles to be queried on the pipeline library itself. The second part is to add a guarantee about invariance. For every library that includes a pipeline library, the group handles remain bitwise identical. This means that applications do not have to query the group handle after linking, it can keep using the same record buffers in ray tracing dispatches.

For capture replay, we also allow capture replay handles to be extracted from pipeline libraries. When creating a pipeline library, those capture replay handles can be used, which also ensures invariance for any pipeline that includes the library.

Rather than allowing group handles directly from libraries, it would be possible to require applications to link a pipeline library trivially by creating a complete pipeline with no extra shader groups and one pipeline library. From there, group handles can be queried. This is problematic since fully linked pipelines must include a ray generation shader stage. Forcing applications to include one just for the sake of querying handles is awkward.

Another consideration is if we need a new pipeline creation flag to state that group handles can be queried from a library. The assumption and premise of this extension is that drivers already compile pipelines into binary form on library creation time, so adding a pipeline creation flag just clutters the API.

3. Proposal

3.1. Features

The entire extension is covered by a feature struct.

typedef struct VkPhysicalDevicePipelineLibraryGroupHandlesFeaturesEXT {
    VkStructureType                         sType;
    void*                                   pNext;
    VkBool32                                pipelineLibraryGroupHandles;
} VkPhysicalDevicePipelineLibraryGroupHandlesFeaturesEXT;

When this feature is enabled, restrictions are lifted on vkGetRayTracingShaderGroupHandlesKHR and vkGetRayTracingCaptureReplayShaderGroupHandlesKHR, and it is valid to use it on pipeline libraries as well. The expectation is that implementations create binaries at library creation time and there are no differences in querying group handles from a library or a linked pipeline. Invariance is also guaranteed, so that the group handle can be queried just once by application and reused for every pipeline that links against the library.

Group indices work as-if the pipeline was already fully linked.

Note that invariance is not relevant for linked pipelines that are created without VK_PIPELINE_CREATE_LIBRARY_BIT_KHR. These pipelines cannot be linked into any other pipelines, so the question of invariance does not exist. Creating an equivalent pipeline without going through the library mechanism does not guarantee invariance of group handles.

4. Example

4.1. Incrementally linking

This style of implementation matches DXR 1.1 AddToStateObject().

// Pseudo-code. Compile libraries separately.
vkCreateRayTracingPipelines(flags = VK_PIPELINE_CREATE_LIBRARY_BIT_KHR, pGroups = &group0, &library0);
vkCreateRayTracingPipelines(flags = VK_PIPELINE_CREATE_LIBRARY_BIT_KHR, pGroups = &group1, &library1);
vkCreateRayTracingPipelines(flags = VK_PIPELINE_CREATE_LIBRARY_BIT_KHR, pGroups = &group2, &library2);

// Query these once. Either upload to GPU or save them on CPU side.
// Application can start constructing record buffers.
uint8_t groupBuffer[3][32];
vkGetRayTracingShaderGroupHandlesKHR(library0, groupCount = 1, &groupBuffer[0]);
vkGetRayTracingShaderGroupHandlesKHR(library1, groupCount = 1, &groupBuffer[1]);
vkGetRayTracingShaderGroupHandlesKHR(library2, groupCount = 1, &groupBuffer[2]);

// Not required yet, compile these in the background for when they are needed.
async {
        vkCreateRayTracingPipelines(flags = VK_PIPELINE_CREATE_LIBRARY_BIT_KHR, pGroups = &group3, &library3);
        vkCreateRayTracingPipelines(flags = VK_PIPELINE_CREATE_LIBRARY_BIT_KHR, pGroups = &group4, &library4);
        uint8_t groupBuffer[2][32];
        vkGetRayTracingShaderGroupHandlesKHR(library3, groupCount = 1, &groupBuffer[0]);
        vkGetRayTracingShaderGroupHandlesKHR(library4, groupCount = 1, &groupBuffer[1]);

vkCreateRayTracingPipelines(pLibraryInfo = { &library0, &library1, &library2 }, &rtpso);

// Trace some rays.

// Loading screen, we need some more material in next scene, link them in now incrementally.
wait { library3, library4 }
vkCreateRayTracingPipelines(pLibraryInfo = { &library0, &library1, ..., &library4 }, &rtpso2);

// Trace rays, with upgraded pipeline. No need to requery all group handles.

An alternative style for incremental link can be used where combine libraries into a fused library and link it. On an incremental link, we reduce the number of handles used. This might improve linking performance or ease of use. The downside of this approach is that we cannot easily remove pipelines once linked.

// It is legal to link other libraries into a new library.
vkCreateRayTracingPipelines(flags = VK_PIPELINE_CREATE_LIBRARY_BIT_KHR, pLibraryInfo = { &library0, &library1, &library2 }, &rtpsoLibrary);
vkCreateRayTracingPipelines(pLibraryInfo = { &rtpsoLibrary }, &rtpso);

// Trace some rays.

// Keep incrementally linking.
wait { library3, library4 }
vkCreateRayTracingPipelines(flags = VK_PIPELINE_CREATE_LIBRARY_BIT_KHR, pLibraryInfo = { &rtpsoLibrary, &library3, &library4 }, &rtpso2Library);
vkCreateRayTracingPipelines(pLibraryInfo = { &rtpso2Library }, &rtpso2);